Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 11/4/2003 for PS2  
More On: RoadKill
Have you ever wondered what would happen if Mad Max were to take place in an urban setting? I’d like to think that it would pan out a little something like RoadKill, Midway’s new vehicle-driven action title. Gangs run the streets and wage war around the clock while the police’s efforts to qualm the tensions are futile. Pedestrians and motorists are fair game and serve as target practice for the people running the street, the world’s a messed up place and only one man will be tough enough to rule them. You play as Mason Strong, a drifter who was left for dead by his former employer. As Mason you devote your life to working your way back up the ranks so that you can make it back to Paradise City and give him a little payback.

That’s the basic premise of RoadKill, an excellent vehicular combat title that exceeds every expectation that I had going in to it. I was expecting a generic Twisted Metal clone that would bring nothing of worth to the table but I got a whole lot more than I bargained for. Instead of reciprocating the same dry formula that has been on the scene since the birth of the PSOne Midway injected some depth into the genre and has produced one of this holiday season’s best surprises.

Comparisons will also be drawn to Grand Theft Auto and rightfully so; it’s apparent that the guys behind RK drew some inspiration from Rockstar’s highly successful title. Even the menu system and map seem to have been lifted from GTA but those are small blemishes that are easily forgiven, especially given just how entertaining this game is. You’re given free reign over three distinct cities, a hellacious town that looks straight out of Mad Max, a canyon town that’s the least entertaining of the three and a utopian society that’s a blast to roam around. Each of them offers different styles of gameplay and the pacing in which you unlock the new cities is just perfect as you’ll receive them just as you become bored with your current surroundings.

When you arrive you’re treated to a pre-rendered cutscene that lays out the scene for you. You’re driving casually through the town at a casual 30mph, as you take a gaze out your driver side window you observe a group of thugs engaging in a good old-fashioned gunfight. Undeterred by the slaughtering of one gang member you continue on your merry way as you pull into the entrance of a carnival. Instantly you hook up with another gang member as you take a tour around the city and stop at your garage, your basic base of operations. Of course this whole time you’re given free reign to fire upon vehicles, enemies and structures.
In GTA fashion, starting a mission is as simple as visiting a person and then stopping in a glowing circle. Doing so incites a pre-rendered cutscene that lays out the task before you. Mission variety is prevalent here as you’ll engage in a wide range of tasks. You’ll be saddled with simple things such as running errands for bosses and the higher ups in the gangs. As you move up the ranks you’ll be given more responsibilities such as attacking a rival gang’s supply ring or ambushing key leaders. There’s a lot of variety to be had here and the addition of a rear turret on each of the vehicles gives you another aspect to partake in. While not the game’s strongest gameplay aspect, some missions will require you to man the rear turret for a little rail-shooter action. Some of the levels can be fun but most of them really detract from the overall experience. The controls are a bit loose and some enemies are simply too hard to hit leading to a very frustrating experience. I welcome the variety but I think the game would have been better off as a solely vehicular combat game instead of a hybrid rail-shooter.

But thankfully those are very few and far between and you’ll be behind the wheel of a rig for the majority of the time. While the physics aren’t exactly as tight as they could have been they perform well when it comes to this type of gaming. We did find that it was a bit difficult to drive with precision at times, causing us to haphazardly circle around pick-ups and drop-off points until we stumbled our way onto the dead zone. For the most part the vehicles are very easy to control and handle just as you would expect a lumbering truck with a massive mounted machine would. At times the vehicles can exhibit that sort of “wheels on ice” feeling but the physics we have here are serviceable.

Some of the missions are excellent but the most fun can be derived from driving around the city and wreaking havoc upon its denizens. In a system that works similarly to the GTA wanted level RK employs a RIOT system. As you unleash hell and cause more chaos the letters R-I-O-T will begin to appear. When you successfully spell out the whole world the entire town goes into a frenzy and the freaks come out to do battle. Of course you can calm the situation by running from it or picking up peace signs that are scattered throughout the environment. Another interesting facet of the game is the weapons advancement system. In order to get bigger and better weapons you’ll have to scour the environment and assemble its pieces. Instead of putting them in annoying hard to reach locales Midway decided to place them in interesting and fun locations. Hell, most of the time you’ll just be driving around at your leisure when you launch off a ramp and accidentally pick one of them up. In this regard you won’t necessarily have to go out of your way to find them because you’ll probably encounter when you’re joyriding.

There’s an awful lot of detail that went into the design and structure of the vehicles. While there are only a handful of different vehicle models in the game they’re all a massive labor of love. When bullets hit the vehicles you’ll see bits and chunks of the frame fly off as its condition begins to deteriorate. Sometimes the modeled damage is a bit too extreme, such as when I barely nicked a light pole and the door fell off, but it’s all very impressive to watch. Some of the textures really could have used some more work as a lot of the city has a very generic feel to it, but the overall look of the game passes with flying colors. Rounding out the visuals is a set of rag doll physics that hurls bodies around in entertaining fashion.
In a move that shows the sign of the times RK features different radio stations that you can listen to as you go on about your thuggish lifestyle. Licensed music has been included and features the likes of Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” and Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.” There’s also an-all rap station that features a few relative unknowns while an entire station is comprised of music by The Fuzz Brothers and Brian Chapman. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s the kind of music that I’d blast in my vehicle but it certainly helps get my adrenaline rushing. Be forewarned though, the talk radio station features some pretty racy topics and adult content so if you’re easily offended you’ll probably want to shy away from them.

This could have been a better game had Midway gone all out with the multiplayer portion. Regarded that the fact that it’s even here is a nice addition, but it only makes us wonder of just what could have been had it been given some more love. How about a multiplayer co-op mode where one person drives and the other mans the turret in the back a la HALO? That would have been an excellent way of promoting multiplay. Instead we have a tacked on mode that feels like a weak Twisted Metal clone than anything. Sure, it supports up to four players but you’ll be hard-pressed to find four people who would want to engage in something so bland and cumbersome.

This one had the potential to be bad, really bad, but thankfully Midway pulled out all of the stops to pull out one of this season’s best games. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s just another wanna-be Twisted Metal wannabe because you’ll be depriving yourself of one of the most entertaining games of this holiday season. It’s not perfect and you’ll probably find some flaws as you go along, but it still comes with a high recommendation.
When I first heard about RoadKill I instantly thought “oh great, another lame Twisted Metal Clone, this ought to be fun.” I couldn’t be further off the mark, instead of putting players into mindless killzones Midway has done something amazing by adding some depth and substance to the game, effectively turning it into the vehicle combat of GTA-style games. It’s much more than meets the eye, and while it’s not a perfect game, it’s definitely a forward step for the genre.

Rating: 8.2 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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